Author Interview – Mark Piggott

Author of The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart

Join me as I chat to Mark Pigott about his latest release and all things writing. Welcome Mark! I am so pleased we’ve finally had the chance to catch up. I read your book The Last Magus back in 2021, (you can see my review here) and thoroughly enjoyed it. Marcus is a worthly MC!

Helen: To begin with, Mark, tell us about The Last Magus.

Mark: The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is my latest novel. Marcus Gideon, left for dead at a crossroads, is saved by a modern magical miracle—a clockwork heart. This second chance gives him the opportunity to discover his forgotten past while forging a new future as the apprentice to a Magus. The Magus were legendary warrior-wizards, the sacred guardians of magic on Attlain, until a failed rebellion forced them into hiding. As the apprentice to The Last Magus, Marcus Gideon takes his destiny into his own hands, combining the strength of a warrior with the power of a mage. The story takes you from his rebirth and apprenticeship to assuming the mantle of a Magus and training at the Basilon Magical Academy. He makes friend, allies and enemies along the way in this first step into a fantasy steampunk world of machines and magic.

Helen: I just love the cover, it is so fantastical and atmospheric. How did you come up with the design?

Mark: Since this novel focused on one main character, Marcus Gideon, I wanted to represent him and his powers on the cover. I also wanted to touch on the steampunk aspect of the story with the gears and mechanical frame. Through my contact with other independently published fantasy authors on social media, I discovered a great cover artist, Anna-Lena Spies (@eerilyfair_design on IG) and she worked great with me, even though we communicated only through email (She’s in the Netherlands). She deftly showed the power of a Magus, summoning a magical weapon from thin air. I plan to have her do all my covers to ensure consistency across the series I intend to write.

Helen: I’m so glad there are more stories to come in the series and I can’t wait to see what you come up with for the covers! What made you write this particular story.

Mark: I grew up as a child of the nuclear age, living through the Cold War, wondering how the world would end. You had so many post-apocalyptic movies and books in the 60’s through the 80’s, so much so that it overwhelms the mind. I wondered what would happen if the world ended by magic? That’s where this story came from. I imagined magic returning to the world, in such a force, that cities and countries would fall, people and animals would change form, and the world would start anew. But I also didn’t want a pure fantasy world, so I thought about my new favorite genre . . . steampunk. What if I combined magic and machines and built a world around that idea. It may look and act like a “Tolkien-esque” world, but it is one of magic and machine where the two mingle and merge into one.

Helen: Steampunk fantasy is so cool, with all the inventions and ‘new’ technology at your fingertips, your imagination is your limit really in what you could come with. What made you choose to write fantasy?

Mark: As a young teen, I loved comic books. I started creating my own comic book characters and stories. I even drew a little. I wanted to be the next Stan Lee or Jack Kirby but my artistic skills didn’t pan out. I went the writing route instead. I joined the US Navy as a Navy Journalist, but I wrote mostly news releases, feature articles, and press releases. It was during that time that I started developing my writing skills and developed my story into the Forever Avalon series. I can also say my time playing Dungeons and Dragons helped me with world building, character creation, and developing a story. All of that was part of the game so it helped me in my writing. I am a full-time writer, both personally and professionally. I work as a writer-editor with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. My job is to try to make the complex writings of government rules and regulations more readable and clearer for everyday people. At night, I work on everything for my novels, from social media posts, marketing, and writing whatever work in progress I have.

Helen: You are very lucky that you are able to write for your work, keeps your writing juices flowing! Aside from translating indecipheral regulations, what else can you tell us about yourself?

Mark: I am a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Navy. I deployed on four aircraft carriers, including aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65) when 9/11 happened. We were on our way home, at the end of a six-month deployment, as we watched it happen via satellite TV. You could feel the ship turning around as we moved on station, waiting for the chance for a little payback, as it were. The Enterprise was first to launch strikes against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan. It was during this deployment that I wrote my first novel, Forever Avalon, as a way of dealing with the separation from family and war.

Helen: First, thank you for your service. Second, those experiences at sea must have given you so much material for your books! No wonder you like to combine the wonder of technology onto your novels. You must have had time to read as well. What is your favourite book?

Mark: The Elric of Melnibone series by Michael Moorcock. It was the fantasy book series that inspired my own writing style, going beyond the norms of fantasy to find something new. I loved the dark gritty character in Elric and villains he faced, simple but intimidating, and the conflicts he faced in each and every story. Plus, the new mythologies created in this world were sheer brilliance, a first-rate study in fantasy world building for any writer.  

Helen: I haven’t read that series, I must go and check it out. Thank you so much for chatting with me today. To close us out can you share a little about your plans for 2022?

Mark: I have two books being released in 2022 (no dates yet): Corsair and the Sky Pirates, a steampunk historical fiction bringing the war between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison to a new level of adventure from Revolutionary Press; and The River of Souls, a fantasy novella showing love can cross time and space from Curious Corvid Publishing.

You can also find Mark at the Katsucon 2022 anime convention, February 18-20 at the Gaylord Convention Center, National Harbor, MD. Where he will be signing and selling his books during the three-day event.

About the Author:

Mark Piggott at the Willamsburg Festival

Mark Piggott, a native of Phillipsburg, N.J., enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1983, beginning a 23-year career.

He served on three aircraft carriers and various duty stations as a Navy Journalist before he attained the rank of Chief Petty Officer. He retired from active duty in 2006.

His first novel, Forever Avalon, was published in 2009, followed by his second novel, The Dark Tides, in 2014. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series from Austin Macauley Publishing, was released in 2020. He is currently working on the fourth book in the Forever Avalon series, The Prometheus Engine, and a new fantasy/adventure series, The Last Magus.

He and his wife, Georgiene, live in Alexandria, Virginia. They have three children.

For all the latest:

Website

Instagram

You can purchase The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart from Amazon:

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

As an Amazon Associate I may earn commission from purchases made using these links.

If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my books which are available in eBook, paperback or hardcover: Book One: Sentinals Awaken. Book Two: Sentinals Rising. Book Three: Sentinals Justice. Book 3.5: Sentinals Recovery. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next book releases.

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Author Interview – J.L Kodanko

Author of Storyteller

Today I am chatting to Jenifer Kodanko from the writing team of Jennifer and Luke Kodanko who are the authors of fantasy book series The Hurricane Chronicles of which the first two books Storyteller and Intruder are now available.

Helen: Welcome Jennifer. So excited to meet half of a writing team. Tell us how it works!

Jennifer: My pen name is J.L. Kodanko, and the initials stand for both mine and my husband’s first names. (Jennifer and Luke) Our writing is a joint effort and we truly make a phenomenal team. I usually have the seed of an idea, and my husband helps flesh it out into a full story. I dream up the characters, and he helps round them out into credible people. Together we work on the plot and scheme up all kinds of twists and turns and schemes to make it the most enjoyable reading experience possible. 

Helen: Sounds like a perfect writing team! So what books are you working on?

Jennifer: My current fantasy series is called The Hurricane Chronicles. It’s a Young Adult Fantasy series that follows Reka of the Agiles. Our tagline is “She knows all the legends, but she doesn’t know her own story.” The series has two books published, and there will be two more before it is complete. By the end of Storyteller (book 1), all the players have been assembled. By the end of Intruder (book 2), we understand that things are not as they seem in the drought ravaged land of Orosea. And in the final two books, we will see the culmination of this story, where our heroes will hopefully triumph over evil, as long as I do my job right!  

Helen: I have Storyteller on my physical TBR list. I am looking forward to starting your series! The cover is gorgeous, how did you come up with the design?

Jennifer: Reka sits around the fire with her traveling acrobatic troupe and tells them stories in the evenings. Through them we learn about the world of Orosea, and the problems that have been plaguing it. So choosing a cover with a dynamic fire was a shoe-in, and the sword is meant to evoke the warrior that she encounters in her travels. He will be a critical part of her story! This was our first attempt at designing a cover, and a year later I’m still thrilled with the results! 

Helen: I love it when the cover supports the story. Tell us what made you write this particular story.

Jennifer: Three years ago, my husband challenged me to write a book-any book, start to finish. I chose to write a historical romance. It’s not going to win any awards, but it proved to me that I could, in fact, write an entire book. After that we started playing around with ideas for the premise to a fantasy series. We found our inspiration in Mayan mythology and I started writing. Six months later, I had a complete manuscript! I let a few friends read it and they loved it, and we started getting serious about publishing it. We chose to go the self publishing route because it allows us to retain all of the creative control over our work. Also, we can publish as quickly as we can write the books, which is immensely satisfying for both us and our readers!  

Helen: Why did you choose to write fantasy?

Jennifer: I write fantasy because I learned from Star Trek: The Next Generation that you can tackle really big issues if you place the story in a fantastical setting. Fantasy has a way of putting people at ease, because no one feels attacked and everyone likes escapism. Then, once you’ve drawn readers into your fictional world, you can talk about things like courage, equality, honesty and integrity. Fantasy breaks down the walls that society builds, and I truly love that about the genre. 

Helen: That is a great way of looking at it. When you think of your writing journey, what is the best piece of advice you’ve recieved?

Jennifer: This is specific to writing, but my mantra these days is “done is better than perfect.” I’d rather take a crack at something, give it my all, and then move on before I can spiral out into endless revisions and tweaks and adjustments. Looking back on the two books I’ve published, I’d change word choices and even some aspects of storytelling. But overall, I’m still really happy with the books I’ve written. I strive to improve with every book, and as a reader, I always enjoy watching an author grow in their craft. I’d rather have ten good books finished and published than one almost-perfect-but-it-needs-one-more-pass manuscript that no one else ever sees. For me, so much of the enjoyment of writing comes from hearing how people enjoyed my stories. If I don’t publish them, I’ll never get to share them with others. By and large, our readers have been immensely kind and supportive of the fact that writing is an endless learning curve. 

Helen: How do you fit writing into your daily life?

Jennifer: It depends on the season I’m in. Sometimes I can schedule out 3-4 hour uninterrupted blocks each day to write, and that is glorious. Other times (like right now), I write for an hour in the mornings, fit in a little more throughout my day, and then another hour after the kids are in bed. That last hour is usually also brainstorming plot points and character arcs with my husband. It’s a bit piecemeal, but I’ll take writing time however it comes! 

Helen: I’m the same. I think most writers have to fit writing into pockets of time, but sometimes, when I have a writing urge, I just have to take time off work because I can’t concentrate until I have got my thoughts on paper! How about music? Do you listen to music when writing or do you prefer silence?

Jennifer: I almost always listen to instrumental music when I’m writing. If I’m really stuck on a scene, music is one of my foolproof writer’s block busters. I’ve used Marvel Avengers soundtracks heavily in my writing of The Hurricane Chronicles-the scores are just so epically inspiring! 

Helen: Which do you prefer, writing or editing?

Jennifer: 1000% writing. I see the value in editing, and I do it because my books are so much better after that effort. But writing a first draft is…magical. Everything is possible. The story is yet undiscovered. My characters are still raw, vague ideas in my mind. And I get to watch it all unfold through my fingertips. It’s glorious. I wish all writing could be just writing, and no editing! 

Helen: So, if you didn’t write fantasy, would you try another genre?

Jennifer: I’m trying my hand at contemporary romance. It’s a whole different beast, and although I’ve written several different things, I feel like I’m just starting to get a handle on it. Emotional stories that aren’t plot driven are MUCH more difficult to write! But I’m a diehard romance fan, so it’s worth it to me to learn how to do it.

Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today, it has been great chatting with you. Last question, what are some of your favourite books that you’ve read recently?

Jennifer: I recently finished The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black, and I wholeheartedly recommend the entire series. That said, The Wicked King was my absolute favorite. The writing was top notch, I fell in love with the characters, and the entire plot was just so clever. Also, I’ve read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir and her worldbuilding was masterful. I need to get back to that series! If you’re looking for a lovely, simple fantasy romance, Radiance by Grace Draven was an absolute delight. And I’ve read A Court of Mist and Fury so many times I’ve memorized some parts, so I guess that deserves a mention as well. 

About the Author:

Jennifer Kodanko

My first memory of a writing assignment should have been a signal to me that I would end up writing epic fantasy stories. I was tasked with a two paragraph story in second grade, and I filled two pages, front and back! My next memory of writing is a fun little story in sixth grade called Molly and the Terrible Day. It was a cast full of anthropomorphized kitchen items; the star, Molly, was a chipped cup (perhaps a Beauty and the Beast reference?). The villain was a blender, and the kitchen item in distress was a birthday candle. I printed it out (by hand!), bound it, and even gave it a hand drawn cover. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I eventually ended up becoming serious about writing stories, since I was obviously a child prodigy.

High school and college gave me enough writing assignments about horribly boring things that I never had time for creative writing. Then I got married and started playing around with words again. I wrote a decorating blog for seven years, but then I started having kids, and time (along with sleep, and clean clothes) became a scarce and oh-so-precious commodity. Fast forward a few years, with a husband who never stopped encouraging me to write, and I finally just sat down and started writing. And the rest, as they say, is history.

For all the latest:

Website

You can purchase Storyteller from Amazon:

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

As an Amazon Associate I may earn commission from purchases made using these links.

If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my books which are available in eBook, paperback or hardcover: Book One: Sentinals Awaken. Book Two: Sentinals Rising. Book Three: Sentinals Justice. Book 3.5: Sentinals Recovery. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next book releases.

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Author Interview – Morgan Gauthier

Author of Wolves of Adalore

Welcome to 2022 and my first Indie Author interview of the year. Morgan and I met on a recent Author live session on facebook, the recording of which you can find here. Morgan is a fellow Epic Fantasy author. Wolves of Adalore is the first book of the Mark of the Hunter series and Morgan revealed her cover for her second book in the series, The Red Maiden, yesterday! Congratulations on such a gorgrious cover Morgan!

Helen: Welcome Morgan. Tell us about your latest book, The Red Maiden.

Morgan: The Red Maiden is my current project, and it will be published April, 10, 2022. This is the second book in the Mark of the Hunter Trilogy and E-Book Pre-Order is Now Available on Amazon.

Cover Art done by the amazing @artzzofkae

Synopsis:

Separated and on opposite sides of the continent, Salome and Crispin continue to amass an army to face their sister while avoiding other enemies set on killing them before they get close to Northwind.

In the Isles of Myr, Salome meets her mother’s kin while facing the ugly truth of her family’s past and her potential future as a magic wielder.

Trapped in the cutthroat Kingdom of Pulau, Crispin makes a deal with the pirates of the Shadow of Death to get him off the island and returned to his companions. But their service comes at a price.

Fully aware of her siblings’ survival and whereabouts, Niabi is left to face her past and embrace the darkness growing within her. With usurpers coming for her throne and traitors in her own court, Niabi readies herself for war.

Helen: Sibling rivalry, sounds intense! The cover is quite powerful. How did you come up with the design?

Morgan: The cover was specifically designed by @artzzofkae. She will be redesigning the first book’s cover as well as creating the cover for the third book in the Mark of the Hunter Trilogy. I commissioned character artwork from her as well and the pictures turned out better than I could have ever imagined. 

When talking with my artist, I told her I wanted Salome and Niabi on the cover because they’re our two main characters. One the heroine, the other the villain. I wanted strong women as my protagonist and antagonist, and I’m beyond thrilled with seeing them on the cover.

Helen: It is gorgeous. What inspired you to write the Mark of the Hunter series?

Morgan: I often get asked the question of what inspired me to write Wolves of Adalore and The Red Maiden. I was 14 years old when I started writing this story and it all stemmed from my love of fantasy fiction (especially The Lord of the Rings) and my interest in medieval history. But the one major problem I was finding in the books I got my hands on were the female characters were either the “damsel in distress” or the “token love interest” and I didn’t identify with either trope. I wanted to read about a girl who wasn’t perfect, wasn’t the heroine that made every right decision, but the girl who took control of her destiny and saved herself.

As I got older, I found myself fascinated with the villains in stories (Hello, Cersei Lannister!). What happened to mold them into the villain? And I realized that the villain doesn’t see themselves in that wicked light. They are normally the heroes of their own stories.
So with those concepts in mind, I wrote the Mark of the Hunter Trilogy. Both the protagonist and antagonist are women. And they are pretty badass women if I say so myself.
I wanted girls to read a book that showed they didn’t need to wait for a man to save them or slay the dragon that hunts them. They could slay the dragon and save themselves.

Helen: That is a wonderful story. How did you first begin writing?

Morgan: At eleven years old, I remember watching The Lord of the Rings and being enamoured with everything epic fantasy offered. I decided I wanted to write a story of my own that would stay with readers the rest of their lives. 

As an avid reader, I read a lot of fantasy books that featured strong males as the hero and had any female character as either the damsel in distress or a one-dimensional love interest. I decided I wanted to write a story that highlighted females as the protagonist and antagonist. I wanted to create characters I could relate to, and other little girls could look up to.   

Helen: Sounds amazing, Which characters do you prefer to write, heroes or villains?

Morgan: I really enjoy villains. But I also really enjoy morally grey heroes and villains because I believe we as people have both light and dark inside us. I find morally grey characters more relatable and villains who have the right motives but the wrong way of going about accomplishing their goals to be interesting to read about. A well-written villain will have you questioning if they are actually the bad guy of the story or not.

Helen: Who is your favourite character from your fantasy series?

Morgan: A lot of people have asked me this question and I never give them an actual answer. I feel like it’s almost like choosing my favourite child. BUT. I would say I really enjoy the villains in my books. Some of them have righteous motives but go about achieving those goals in the wrong way. Some of them are deliciously wicked and are hell-bent on wreaking havoc on their enemies. I find villains to be more interesting to read about (and at times, secretly root for).

Helen: What is your preferred genre? You don’t only write fantasy, do you?

Morgan: I write Young Adult Fantasy. I love the adventure, romance, and endless creative possibilities that fantasy offers. The gorgeous worldbuilding and the memorable characters are some of the aspects that stood out to me as a child and spurred me into reading and writing fantasy.

I have dabbled in, and published, a Contemporary Romantic Comedy entitled Aloha, Seattle, and I’ve thought about writing another book in that genre when I have the time. 

Helen: If you didn’t write fantasy, would you consider more contemporary romance books?

Morgan: I have dabbled in Contemporary Romance and published my first Rom-Com November 2, 2021. It is entitled Aloha, Seattle. I enjoyed the process of writing such a fun, light-hearted, and loving story and would definitely be interested in writing another one in the future.

Helen: Which books would you recommend from your recent reads?

Morgan: What a tough question! I have read a lot of great books this year in the Fantasy, Romance, and Mystery genres, but these are some of my favourite Fantasy reads in no particular order:

1.       On These Black Sands by Indie Author Vanessa Rasanen

2.       The Prison Healer and The Gilded Cage by Lynette Noni

3.       Six of Crows Duology by Leigh Bardugo

4.       These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan

5.       Daughter of the Pirate Queen Duology by Tricia Levenseller

Helen: Who is your favourite author?

Morgan: My favorite author hands down is Agatha Christie. I LOVE her Hercule Poirot mysteries. Death on the Nile, Murder in Mesopotamia, Appointment with Deathand The Mystery of the Blue Train are some of my all-time favourites! If you’re looking for great whodunnits, then look to the Queen of Mystery!

Helen: We’re approaching the end of our time together. I really appreciate you joining us today. Tell us something random about yourself.

Morgan: I LOVE Gordon Ramsey. I watch all of his shows. I look up his recipes and don’t even come close to duplicating them. My husband is an amazing chef and I get really excited when he tries new recipes!

I also really hate heights. I won’t even get up on a six-foot ladder. 

Helen: I must admit I am not a fan of heights either! Thank you so much for spending some time with me today. Just to finsh do you have any advice you would give aspiring writers?

Morgan: I would give a new writer the same advice my husband gave me when I thought about quitting before I had finished writing my first book. I was a new mom of a one-year-old and pregnant with my second child. I was frustrated that I never seemed to be able to get any writing done so I told him I was just going to give up on being a published author. The words he spoke that night in our cramped condo have stayed with me and fuelled me over the years. He said, “Even if it’s just five minutes a day, write for those five minutes. Soon, five minutes will turn into ten minutes, one sentence will turn into a paragraph, and sooner or later, you will have a finished book. Don’t give up on your dream.” That was four years ago, and I’ve written/published three books and will begin my fourth in a couple of months. If you want it, you can achieve it.

About the Author:

Morgan Gauthier

Storytelling is in Morgan Gauthier’s blood; She can’t seem to turn her brain off at night and some of her best ideas have come to her in the shower.

Born to two book-loving parents, Morgan was raised on a healthy diet of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Nancy Drew, and any fantasy book she could get her hands on. She started writing her own stories at eleven years old and hasn’t looked back.

Wolves of Adalore was her first self-published YA Fantasy title and since then, she has published a Contemporary Romance (Aloha, Seattle) with the second YA Fantasy installment in the Mark of the Hunter Trilogy (The Red Maiden) coming in April of 2022.

Morgan Gauthier lives in East Tennessee with her husband and best friend, Brad, with their three children, Remi, Archer, and Roux (who are 4 years old and younger!). If five people wreaking havoc in the same house wasn’t enough, Morgan also has three dogs, Potter, Skye, and Bubba, and one grumpy bird named Titus.

If Morgan isn’t writing or reading, she can be found binge watching Netflix shows, attempting to cook like Gordon Ramsay (not even close to his level), and practicing archery.

You can find out more about Morgan via:

Website | Facebook | Instagram

You can purchase Wolves of Adalore from Amazon:

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

As an Amazon Associate I may earn commission from purchases made using these links.

If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my books which are available in eBook, paperback or hardcover: Book One: Sentinals Awaken. Book Two: Sentinals Rising. Book Three: Sentinals Justice. Book 3.5: Sentinals Recovery. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next book releases.

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Author Interview – Katie Zaber

Author of the Ashes and Blood

As we approach Christmas, I am so happy to meet fantasy author, Katie Zaber, author of the Dalya series. You can find Book one Ashes and Blood for free this christmas week, and the second book for 99c so grab your copy now!

Helen: Welcome Katie.Tell us about yourself. What inspired you to write?

Katie: I’ve always been creative, but never took up writing until I was recovering from surgery, was on a lot of meds, and let my imagination loose. Once off the meds and healed, I edited the story, building and rearranging, working through drafts until I was happy.

Helen: What inspired your book/series?

Katie: The song, Lord of the Dance. Somehow, it was stuck in my head and my imagination took over. I pictured a king singing the song—a much more sinister version—while destroying a village of people who disobeyed him. At first, the story was going to be about him and how his reign ends, but I didn’t want to tell it from his perspective. That’s where Megan comes in.

Helen: How do you come up with your book titles?

Katie: When I write a book, I usually have a broad idea of what I want to call it, but I usually decide when I’ve finished the first draft. Almost like a parent meeting their new born. They might have an idea of what they want to name the child while pregnant, but that can change when they see the baby face to face and realize he isn’t a Jim, he’s a Stephen. Kind of like that.

Helen: Tell us about your writing space. The place where you capture your amazing ideas.

Katie: I sit in front of a walnut stained secretary desk with a hutch holding an array of keepsakes. Albums, picture frames, my Snoopy collection, souvenirs, and nostalgic knickknacks line the shelves of the hutch.

My work space is a wonderland of post-it notes in three different colors: pink, neon-yellow, and green. On the right corner of my desk, shoved between the monitor and notary stamp, is a yellow, mini-spiral notebook that contains book outlines, plots, and ideas. Little sticker tabs separate the notebook into different sections. The tabs not in use are floating on the surface of pamphlets and lists of login information to accounts I hardly visit.

A leather bounded diary with nautical embellishments, complete with anchor bookmark, holds random thoughts and sketches. A mechanical pencil can be spotted, hiding between the yellow notebook and leather diary. Its extra parts—erasers & extra graphite are strewn about the entire desk.

Between the post-it notes there are three hacky sacks. There’s also a rectangular leather box with a brass kaleidoscope made to look like it was used on a whimsical pirate ship.

It’s a happy mess.

Helen: Sounds amazing, and the ideal place to wrangle your ideas into words. Do you have a writing routine or do you write when inspired?

Katie: I try to stick to a schedule, but that normally doesn’t happen and I end up writing when inspired.

Helen: What was the hardest scene for you to write? Which scene was your favorite to write?

Katie: Intimate scenes. They are my weak spot. I feel like I can never get them exactly right.

My favorite ones are when I’m describing something for the first time. When I introduce the reader to a new environment, object, or food, my goal is for the reader to feel the mist and sun on their skin. I want them to see in minute details what the character is looking at and taste the juice running down their cheeks as character bites into fruit.

Helen: What’s next for you? Do you have a book in the works?

Katie: Right now I’m finishing up DNA—Demons N Angels, a book about a woman named Evie who mysteriously gets pregnant. After a DNA test proves that her husband is not the father, her life becomes complicated.

People become possessed around Evie, telling her to kill the baby or protect it at all costs as she tries to rebuild her life after a heartbreaking divorce. Throughout the book, she realizes that her child might be a celestial being, but isn’t sure if it’s angelic or demonic.

It’s almost done, and I hope to have it on sale midsummer. You can read the first five chapters here for free.

I’m also working on the third book in the Dalya series, title is undecided. It’s roughly 20,000 words, and I hope to have it out this fall.

Helen: If you could live anywhere, in this world or fantasy, where would you live?

Katie: I’d love to live on a winery in southern Italy. The architecture is breath-taking and I love the small villages with cobblestone streets, knowing your local artisans by name and buying locally from them. There’s something really romantic and peaceful about that small village lifestyle that I hope to one day experience.

Helen: What is your favorite meal?

Katie: I’m a steak and potatoes kind of lady, but the steak needs a decadent brandy cream sauce and buttery garlic whipped potatoes.

Helen: Coffe or tea? Wine or beer?

Katie: A good cup of black tea with a little bit of sugar and milk is my go to in the morning. If I drink coffee, its half milk, and I don’t count the how much sugar. I love moscoto and fruit wines.

Helen: Describe yourself in three words.

Katie: Curious, Spaz, Sensible

Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today, just to close us out can you share some of your authors who ahve influenced your writing?

Katie: There’s a few. I’d say Margaret Atwood, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Conroe, Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, Karen Marie Morning, Jennifer Estep, Laini Taylor, and Chuck Palahniuk are some of the biggest influencers. However, I’d like to think I’ve absorbed a little bit from every book I’ve read.

About the Author:

Katie Zaber

Katie Zaber knows the best way to decide who is cooking dinner is with a Nerf gun fight in the living room. Her boyfriend is an exceptional cook. When she isn’t baking, reading, or going to wine tastings, she’s busy planning her next trip to Six Flags Great Adventure or Long Beach Island, New Jersey. As a child, her parents would read stories about Atlantis and other fictional places that she dreamed of exploring, fueling her love of history, adventure, and fantasy. These days, she finds herself captivated by her many projects and enjoys quiet nights at home.

You can find more via:

Amazon Author Page | Website | Goodreads | BookBub | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Blood and Ashes synopsis:

A mystical tree captures the attention of Megan and her friends, morphing the surrounding environment, transferring them to an exotic planet with bloodthirsty creatures. Saved from the deadly beasts by hunters, Megan finds herself stuck in a rural town still maimed by the plague. A chance encounter with a familiar face gives Megan and her friends some security during their adjustment to this new world. While settling into promising lives, they are attacked and stalked by planet Dalya’s humanoid inhabitants, who focus solely on Megan.

One dark night, after a magical attack, the Fae King’s knight is sent to fetch Megan for a reason she can’t possibly guess. When she wakes up a prisoner, she learns that there is much more to this strange place, and it is oddly more like home than she ever would have expected.

The more Megan learns about the strange world of Dalya, the more she realizes that finding a way home is insignificant compared to everything else at stake.

You can purchase Ashes and Blood from Amazon:

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

Book 2: Below Dark Waters

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

As an Amazon Associate I may earn commission from purchases made using these links.

If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my books which are available in eBook, paperback or hardcover: Book One: Sentinals Awaken. Book Two: Sentinals Rising. Book Three: Sentinals Justice. Book 3.5: Sentinals Recovery. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next book releases.

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Author Interview – R&C Christiansen

Author of theTainted Love Trilogy

Today we meet contemporary romance author husband and wife team, R & C Christiansen, who write tough love, emotionally powerful novels, not always with a happy ending.

Helen: I am so excited to chat with you about your Tainted Love series. You have been sharing such great snippets of your books on instagram recently that I can’t wait to dive in. I haven’t read them yet, I’ve been holding off, knowing these are going to be an emotional rollercoaster, which I’m not sure I am quite ready for but well worth the read. Tell us about your series.

R & C Christiansen: My latest release, Hush, is part of a five book collection called the Tainted Love Series. The first three books were originally a trilogy that is now rolled into one book with three parts titled Tainted Love: The Complete Trilogy. It’s dark romance, friends to lovers, and the storyline gets deeper and darker with each book eventually ending with a HEA. 

Then there is Whisper: A Tainted Love Story which is a tragic non-HEA love story that’s set around two side characters from the original series. It depicts a couple who struggle to come to terms with their past as they push forward in a world they don’t seem to belong in. 

Last, I wrote Hush: The Final Tainted Story, about the younger brother of the MC in Whisper. He is a mute man who can’t read or write, and his story ends tragically also as we learn that he is in love with his brother’s wife and has no way to express nor act on it. Again, it is non-HEA and is bound to cause a variety of emotions as Cliff’s struggles are heart-breaking. I do have a trigger warning across the entire series because the subject matter demands it, but in truth, I wrote each book delicately knowing there is a thin line between dark romance and outright darkness. 

Helen: This series is about tough love in tough situations. What made you write it?

R & C Christiansen: In the beginning, I had wanted to create a realistic dark romance that centered around real everyday issues people face. I wanted to show that love isn’t always perfect. It can be messy, painful, unpredictable even, but it’s something worth fighting for if two people are meant to be together. The trilogy itself represents all that and more. It’s the story of a couple (Whiskey & Vixen) who battle each other’s demons together and for each other, yet they both come from opposite sides of the spectrum. In the end, it was my fans that asked me to write the other side of the story when it came to the side characters who had no way out of the ‘darkness’ and that is how both Whisper and Hush came about.

Helen: You have such powerful characters in your series, who was your favourite character to write?

R & C Christiansen: That’s a hard question to answer because each character is so unique and strong in their own right. I’d have to go with Ken from Whisper, only because he’s more villain than hero, yet his love for his wife and brother is unparalleled when it comes to the other characters.

Helen: Tell us about your writing process. Do you listen to music or do you prefer silence when you are writing?

R & C Christiansen: Hell yes! I find music is a huge part of writing, it can inspire the feelings I need to harness in order to create the emotion I’m aiming for. Each of my books have playlists in Spotify, and both Whisper and Hush have a playlist included in the book. My current inspirations have been In This Moment, Creed, Palaye Royale, and Linkin Park. My favorite of the bands has to be In This Moment because my God, Maria Brink’s voice is out of this world. If I could compare her to one of my characters, she’d be Vixen from The Tainted Love Trilogy. She’s absolutely incredible. 

Helen: I must admit I have certain albums I listen to when writing. And then of course, afterwards I always think of the charcters when I hear the songs. Do you find it easier to plan what you write, or are you a pantser, and let the book go where it will?

R & C Christiansen: I’m a pantser all the way. My novels are mainly written in first person, present tense, so I have the ability to jump inside my character’s minds and act out their scenes on paper. I let them take the lead and tell me where the story is going. My husband and co-writer says the characters are my alternate personalities and sometimes I think he’s right. 

Helen: I must adnmit I am the same. I don’t write first person, but I do get into my characters heads to see what they see. I love the immersive aspect. Most writers are great readers; who is your favourite author?

R & C Christiansen: If we are talking traditionally published, I’d have to go with Tara Sue Me. Her Submissive series was phenomenal and I own every one of her books in paperback. If we are talking about my favorite Indie author, I’d have to go with two. One being Janet Olson who is a YA romance author and her series, New Beginnings is incredible. The second I would mention is Monique Edenwood, her Black Oak dark romance series has it all and I’ve read all of her books to date and am in awe.

Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today, just to close us out can you share some of your favourite books?

R & C Christiansen: Oof! That’s a long list. But to keep it short, I’d have to go with Jayne Lockwood’s Closer Than Blood series and Nicci Harris’s Our Thing/Cosa Nostra/ Her Way series. Both series are dark romance, the first being slightly taboo and the other leaning into the mafia world. 

About the Author:

R&C Christiansen is a proud Canadian husband and wife team, although Mrs. Christiansen does the majority of the authoring and Mr. C does the mentoring & proofreading. Together they write dark/erotic romance novels and enjoy reading the same genres when they have time. When the Mrs., is not busy authoring, mothering, or wife-ing, she likes to indulge in a glass of wine, kick back, and think dirty thoughts hoping to inspire the next story within.

You can find more via:

Amazon Author Page

Instagram

You can purchase Tainted Love from Amazon:

UK: eBook | Paperback | Hardcover

USA: eBook | Paperback | Hardcover

As an Amazon Associate I may earn commission from purchases made using these links.

If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my books which are available in eBook, paperback or hardcover: Book One: Sentinals Awaken. Book Two: Sentinals Rising. Book Three: Sentinals Justice. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next book releases.

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Author Interview – Ally Aldridge

Author of Ocean Heart

Today we meet British fantasy author Ally Aldridge, who released her debut novel Ocean Heart in December 2020.

Helen: Welcome Ally. Congratulations on the release of your first novel Ocean Heart. Why don’t you start by telling us a little about it.

Ally: Ocean Heart is my debut novel.  It’s a YA Fantasy novel about a teen discovering she’s a mermaid with uncontrollable powers, set in my hometown.  

Ocean Heart is book one in the Soul Heart series.  I’ve drafted Sky Heart, book two, and working on a prequel to the The Soul Heart series. 

The Soul Heart Series will feature a different shifter type in each book enabling readers to discover them all.  

Helen: I love that you’ve based your books in Suffolk where you live. It adds a local element which readers love. How did you come up with the cover design?

Ally: As Ocean Heart is set in the modern world I wanted the cover to have a magic feel but not be mistaken for high fantasy.  Mariah doesn’t fully shift until way into the story so I didn’t want her to be depicted as a mermaid.

I wanted it to be clear the MC’s a young girl.  The red dress underwater is from a very important kissing scene in the book.  

I gave all my ideas to my designers, and she asked me a ton of questions to make sure she knew what my book is about and things I like.  I have a thing for silhouettes so she incorporated into the design. 

The end design blew me away. I was in love with it, and it was everything I dreamed of and more. 

Helen: Covers are so special, and the process of clarifing what you want the cover to depict is so important. Like you, every time I’m blown away with what my designer comes up with. There are so many elements to writing a book, what made you first start writing?

Ally: I started writing at a young age. I fell in love with the characters in the book and didn’t want their stories to end.  So, I wrote them more adventures. And, more adventures.  Then, I made my own characters, worlds, and never stopped. 

Helen: That is so wonderful. Books are so inspiring and when you find characters you love, you never want the stories to end. What is your favourite book?

Ally: I really love the werecat shifter series by Rachel Vincent.  It was the first low fantasy series I read and it sucked me in.  I loved having fantasy in the real world.  It inspired my Soul Heart series. 

Helen: I have a feeling I know the answer to this question! But which do you prefer? Writing or editing?

Ally: I prefer writing, and wish I had more time to invest in it.  I usually write in the evening once my kids are asleep.  This isn’t ideal, as sometimes I need this time to do other things, or I’m too tired at all. 

I loathe editing.  I go over & over my writing, picking holes, second guessing myself.  My editor is worth her weight in gold. She gets what I want to achieve, calls me out on mistakes in a way that makes me laugh, and helps me pull my words together.  

Helen: It is difficult to write after a full and busy day. I try and slip in 30 minutes at lunch or before work, doesn’t always work though! When you write are you a pantser or a planner? Do you know what you intend to write?

Ally: I try hard to be planner because I hate the mess at the end, but I never manage much more than a brief outline.  I then discover the characters and details as a write.  

I sometimes have to stop writing to research.  For example, when my character visited a city hospital I needed to use Google Maps to explore the location.  I also needed to look up oil lamps, and other random things.  Even researched things that have probably put me on a watch list.  

Helen: Ah, yes. What we writers have to research can be quite an interesting list. Talking about lists, I have ideas bubbling for new stories all the time. What about you? How do you come up with ideas for your books?

Ally: I get inspired all the time. Sometimes I’ll be inspired by a phrase, or another story.  Songs and art inspires me too.  I’m always thinking “What if?” And noting down ideas for future stories in my plot bunny vault.

Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today, but before you leave, Ally, I’m sure your readers want to know. What’s next? Is there a new book on the horizon from Ally Adridge?

Ally: Yes, book two is called Sky Heart. It follows Kiely getting over a breakup. She makes some bad choices, gets attacked by a werewolf, joins the reapers, and learns to forgive and move on. It’s darker than Ocean Heart but still YA. Sky Heart is fully written, and just finished the first round on Betas. It needs a few professional edits before it is released into the world but it will be releasing in 2022.

I am also currently working on New Moon, which is a prequel to The Soul Heart Series.  This book follows one of the mums in the series, but throws back to her teens in the late 90s to early 00s.  It will have some magic and romance, which is a common theme in my stories.  

About the Author:


Ally was born in London, but grew up in Suffolk which is where most of her YA Fantasy novels are based.

She is happily married to her high school sweetheart, and together they are raising two  cats, their son and daughter.

When Ally is not writing (or at her day job), she loves spending time with her family at the local beach, in the forest or watching way too much Netflix.

Ally loves a cup of tea and has been known to order one on a night out.

You can find more about Ally via:

Author website

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

You can purchase Ally’s books from Amazon:

Ocean Heart

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

As an Amazon Associate I may earn commission from purchases made using these links.

If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my books which are available in eBook, paperback or hardcover: Book One: Sentinals Awaken. Book Two: Sentinals Rising. Book Three: Sentinals Justice. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next book releases.

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Author Interview – Amey Ziegler

Author of The Swiss Mishap

Today we meet contemporary romance author Amey Ziegler, the author of The Swiss Mishap and the companion novel Swiss Mistletoe and Macaroons which releases in December.

Helen: Welcome Amey. It is such a pleasure to chat with you. Tell us about what you ahve been working on. You have a few books coming out, don’t you?

Amey: I have a bunch of WIP and books coming out soon! My first book coming out comes out this December. Swiss Mistletoe and Macarons is a companion novel to my award-winning rom-com The Swiss Mishap. Then I have Wylder Bride coming Feb 28th. This is a Cyrano de Bergerac meets Mail-order bride meets the Wild West. It’s part of a Wylder West series with multiple author series across many genres.

Helen: You have been very busy! Tell us about the cover of your new book.

Amey: Swiss Mistletoe and Macarons has Jean-Marc on the cover in his chef uninformed. He’s a pastry chef who is used to having his own way. I’ve enclosed an easy recipe for macarons that anyone can make.

Wylder Bride has a barn burning and a train on the cover because it’s an action adventure western romance. Maisie comes west but her train is robbed. She must meet the man writing the letter to the man she loves but she doesn’t know she’s fallen in love with the wrong guy.

Helen: Writing different genres must be such fun, and I am sure there is plenty of romance in there. What made you start writing?

Amey: I started out as a reader. I spent many hours of my childhood curled up with a book. I loved reading Nancy Drew. I wanted to create other stories. When I was in my early 30s I decided to peruse writing seriously.

Helen: Reading is so important to inspire new writers, the more you read, the more your imagination goes wild. Where do you find the ideas for your books?

Amey: Ideas are all around us. I find mine my through personal experience. I’m working on a trio of billionaire romances. I just finished book 2. It was inspired by my undergrad degree in Communication. The two main characters are working on a relationship study at the University of Arizona.

Helen: They do say write what you know about. What is the most useful peice of writing advice you’ve received?

Amey: I read a book early in my study that said hard work is more important than talent. That was encouraging because when I first started out I wasn’t sure if I was talented. You know the saying in order to master a skill you must do it for 10k hours. That’s so true for writing. I wrote every day for two-four hours for eight years before I found a publisher for my first book.

Helen: Do you find you plan out your writing, or do you let it take you where it will? Are you a Planner or Pantser?

Amey: I consider myself a plantser which is a mix of the two. I do figure out a few key items about my character. I have major turning points plotted but in between I discovery write. It’s my process and it’s working for me 😀 every writer does it differently ans that’s okay.nd non-fiction ever since.

Helen: As a writer, do you have time to enjoy other hobbies/activities to get your creative juices going?

Amey: Being a mom is a full time job so it’s hard to find time for hobbies. However because I treat writing as a career I do try to find ways to do things with my kids. One thing I do is  see charity quilts with my kids. They help me pick out colors and help me iron.

Helen: Most writers also read. What is your favourite book?

Amey: I love the Princess Bride. It’s got humor, action, intrigue and love.

Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today, Amey. Just one last question, what advice would you give to new writers just starting out.

Amey: Write. A lot of people want to talk about their cool ideas. Write them. Also study the craft. Get better.

About the Author:

Amey Zeigler loves writing clean and steamy-clean romance with adventure and comedy. 

She enjoys working out, yoga, being a mom of three kids, sewing and making movies.

The Swiss Mishap won the 2019 Swoony for Best New Adult Romance and third place in 2020 OCCRWA Book Buyer’s Best Contest.

Amey lives near Austin, TX. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @ameyzeigler and sign up for her newsletter at http://www.ameyzeigler.com

You can find more about Amey via:

Author website

Twitter

Instagram

You can purchase Amey’s books from Amazon:

The Swiss Mishap

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

As an Amazon Associate I may earn commission from purchases made using these links.

Author Interview – Kelly Evans

Author of The Beggar Queen

I am so happy to chat with historical fiction author Kelly Evans, today. I’ve read Kelly’s gothic horror novella The Strange Tale of Miss Victoria Frank and you can find my review here, but today we are talking about Kelly’s latest novel The Beggar Queen which released on August 6th. Welcome Kelly. Let’s start with you introducing your latest novel.

Kelly: My current novel is The Beggar Queen, recently released! It takes place in Seventh Century France and tells the story of Bathilde, kidnapped from England and sold into slavery to a powerful mayor. She thinks her life is over but when the king notices her, everything changes. He marries her but when, in the fashion of Merovingian kings, he dies early, she rules on behalf of her young son. By the end of her life Bathilde had changed the face of France forever.

Helen: This sounds really interesting, sometimes real history is more exciting than fiction! What can you tell us about the cover? I am assuming this Bathilde?

Kelly:The cover for The Beggar Queen shows the main character, Bathilde, in the chemise she chose to wear when she retired to a monastery. The chemise is based on her actual clothing, still kept in the monastery she founded in Chelles, France. When she gave up the riches of her life, she had a jewelled cross embroidered on the front to remind her of the life she once led.

Helen: She sounds like an extraordinary woman who lived an extradorinary life. What made you choose to write her story?

Kelly: I like bringing little known women in history out of the footnotes of the (mostly) men and telling their stories. There are so many amazing women whose stories need to be told, it’s difficult to chose. Bathilde’s story is my third about obscure women. The first is about Aelfgifu, the first wife of Canute the Great. The second is about Edith of Wessex, the wife of Edward the Confessor.

Helen: They all sound equally amazing. As they say, ‘behind every successful man is a strong woman’, I think they didn’t have any choice but to be strong. There was never anyone standing behind them. Which genre to write? This is Historical fiction, isn’t it?

Kelly: Historical fiction (with a side in historical horror!). I’ve always been interested in history; my first degree is in English Lit and History. When I moved to England there was no way NOT to be fascinated, particularly the medieval period, with so many still-standing buildings to visit. Re the horror, I’ve been a horror fan from childhood, I used to watch old monster movies with my dad on Sunday afternoons. It made sense for me to combine history and horror, so I wrote a book that takes place during the black death and added a little undead goodness. As much research went into that book (and the second one in the series) as my straight up historical fiction.

Helen: I would imagine there is a lot of research, as you have to get your historical facts spot on when writing about real people, even if you are putting your own spin on it. How much research did you have to do?

Kelly: I’m a huge proponent of being as accurate as I can in my novels. It can sometimes take months of research before I even start writing, and then I’ll do additional research as I go along. My job is to make scenes in my novels as realistic and immersive as possible without sounding like a high school history paper. I extend this idea to the free articles on my website, including the series of articles I’ve written by the fictional medieval manor owner, Lady Matilda. She offers advice about everything from running your manor to beauty tips to entertaining during the black death. Despite the tongue-in-cheek delivery, the same amount of research goes into those articles as any book I write.

Helen: Sounds like there is as much work, if not more in the resarch than in the book. I am glad you get other uses out of the information you learn. It must be fascinating. Lady Matilda sounds like she knows a thing or too! What made you start writing?

Kelly: This is kind of a cop out answer but I don’t really know. In high school I used to write a short story (as part of a series) in my last class of the day and leave it in my friend’s locker for her to read the next morning. She began reading them to her homeroom class and, after a while, I discovered I had a bit of a following. It was fun so I guess that’s where I really ‘caught’ the writing bug. I’ve been writing both fiction and non-fiction ever since.

Helen: As you have to do so much research do you plan your novels, or do you still find that you are a bit of a panster?

Kelly: Absolutely a planner! It’s difficult to be a pantser when you write historical fiction, you really need to stick to the historical timeline accurately. I also find being a planner means there’s less major editing to do once the story is done because you’ve already worked out all the major plot lines and issues. I also worked as a project manager for trade software platforms before I retired to write full time so my brain kind of works in that logical manner anyway.

Helen: You are fortunate to be able to write full time, I am so jealous! Do you have a set space set up for writing?

Kelly: I have an office in my back room with a window facing the deck and yard. Every so often I’ll look up and just stare out the window for a moment to give my eyes a break. I also have everything I need to hand, including three shelves full of history books!

Helen: Tell us about your current work in progress; who are you writing about?

Kelly: I’m currently researching Seventeenth Century Bologna and Baroque art for my, as yet unnamed, novel about the artist Elisabetta Sirani. She trained under her father and when he fell ill was responsible for looking after her entire family with her art. She started her own art school for women and her art was desired in Bologna by the rich and famous. Sadly, she died young due to the stress of supporting her family.

Photo by Camila Camacho on Unsplash

Helen: With so much research needed for your own books, do you ever have time to read novels for pleasure?

Kelly: I’m currently reading The Conjurer by Luanne G Smith. It’s the third part of a trilogy about a vine witch and the further stories of her two associates. I love the idea of a winery having a dedicated vine witch to help the grapes (the first book), and the follow-on tales of her friends are an easy, entertaining, supernatural read. Perfect at the end of a day of heavy research.

Helen: I loved the Vine Witch, and I have the second book on my kindle tbr pile. I will get to it soon! Tell us something random, or anecdotal about yourself.

Kelly: I’m able to play music by ear ie I can pick up any instrument and, after a few minutes, play it. I took clarinet in school and still actively play tenor recorder (the big, deep-sounding one – I play mostly medieval music), oboe, guitar, and I recently took up the ukulele.

I’ve led a somewhat charmed life. I’ve been inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, been on Austrian television, flown an airplane, worked in one of the world’s greatest museums, and so much more. I try to try as much as I can!

Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today, Kelly. It’s been lovely meeting you. It is so interesting to find out more about these hidden women of history. I am glad you are bringing them out into light. Just to close us out, what advice would you give to new writers just starting out.

Kelly: Try to write every day, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t – life gets in the way and you have to be flexible. Be wary of adjectives (and adverbs too!). Never stop trying to perfect your craft – you’re never too good or too experienced to stop learning.

About the Author:

Born in Canada of Scottish extraction, Kelly Evans graduated in History and English from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. After graduation, she moved to the UK where she worked in the financial sector. While in London Kelly continued her studies in history, focussing on Medieval England. 

Kelly is now back in Ontario with her husband Max and two rescue cats. Her books include The Confessor’s Wife, The Northern Queen, The Mortecarni, and Revelation (all set in Medieval Europe), Elizabeth: Path to the Throne (Tudor England), and The Strange Tale of Miss Victoria Frank (gothic novella). 

When not writing, Kelly loves reading, music (she plays a pretty mean ukulele and some wicked medieval recorder), and watching really bad old horror and science fiction movies. Preferably ones with large insects or lizards. And with a LOT of popcorn. Really a lot.

You can find more about Kelly via:

Author website

Twitter

Amazon Author page

You can purchase Kelly’s books from Amazon:

The Beggar Queen

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

As an Amazon Associate I may earn commission from purchases made using these links.

Author Interview – Rachel Hobbs

Author of The Stones of Power series

I am so happy to be chatting to fantasy author Rachel Hobbs today. Her second fantasy novel Soul Strung launches on November 2nd, and if you haven’t read Shadow Stained yet, you should! Welcome Rachel. Let’s start with you introducing your new novel.

Rachel: The book I’m working on right now is Soul-Strung, the second book in the Stones of Power series. Soul-Strung is the direct sequel to Shadow-Stained, my debut adult dark fantasywhich launched last year. In Soul-Strung, we pick up the story around a month after the events of book one. Ruby is living Callien city, where she’s been trying to build a new life for herself in the wake of past catastrophes. Always the opposite, Drayvex is leaving trails of devastation. Saydor, having narrowly escaped with his life, is back in the power game, and boy does he know how to play it. As we know, Drayvex now has one very clear, very human weakness. And it’s only a matter of time before Saydor discovers that she survived. But despite Drayvex’s dogged attempts to hunt the demon down, Saydor has been one step ahead. So Soul-Strung starts with Drayvex turning up on Ruby’s doorstep out of the blue, armed with this devastating confession and a crazy plan – secure the stone of time and kill Saydor in the past. It’s the first time she’s seen him since Shadow-Stained, and his presence is the equivalence of a demonic hurricane ripping through her new city life. Buckle up, this is going to be a bumpy ride!

Helen: I am so excited to read Soul Strung, as you well know I love Drayvex, even though he is a terrible demon lord, he does have a soft, well a softening centre! What about the cover? What can you tell us about how you came up with the design?

Rachel:Both Shadow-Stained and Soul-Strung have my demon-human duo, Ruby and Drayvex, on the covers. Ruby and Drayvex have a complicated relationship, and it just gets more tangled and polarizing as the books go on. I wanted to reflect that on the cover of Soul-Strung. The biggest difference in the two covers, though, lie with Ruby. This is a deliberate reflection of her personal journey, of the changes she undergoes between the first and second books. On Shadow-Stained’s cover, our heroine has her back to Drayvex and the threat he poses to her. On Soul-Strung, she’s facing Drayvex head on and ultimately, the darkness he represents. She’s not the victim she once was. She’s a little stronger, a little wiser, and she’s no longer scared of the big bad Demon Lord. The question is though, is she facing down his darkness, or is she inviting it in? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Helen: Sounds amazing! I hope she is inviting him in. He needs some of his sharp edges smoothing! How did you come up with the title of the book?

Rachel: I wanted something suggestive of being trapped. Strung is a great word, as it evokes visions of being tied to someone or something against your will. A loss of control and freedom that’s forced upon you, but at the same time, not entirely torturous. With these vibes in mind for book two, Ruby and Drayvex are living with the consequences of that impulsive decision at the end of book one. Consequences that just seem to unfold and unfold. Yes, he saved her life. But not even Drayvex could know what the price of this would be, as no demon before him has ever put a piece of their soul inside a living, breathing human. At least, they didn’t leave an instruction manual!! Does he come to regret going to such lengths? Now isn’t that the question.

Helen: With such strong characters in your book, who did you prefer writing? Ruby or Drayvex?

Rachel: I’ve always gravitated more towards the villains than the heroes in stories. Give me a character with grey morals and a big personality, and I’m yours. I’m a sucker for a good anti-hero, and I think this is a big part of why I find Drayvex so much fun to write. It’s just so much more interesting when the protagonist is a terrible person! I must admit, I feel like I do sometimes really push those anti-hero boundaries with Drayvex. He’s a villain masquerading as an anti-hero. He’s unapologetically demon in all the worst ways, and yet somehow, he manages to get away with murder time and time again. I was told pretty early on that Drayvex’s one redeeming quality is his affection for Ruby. This made me laugh, as when you put it like that, it sounds pretty bad! But I couldn’t agree more. When I first released Shadow-Stained into the world, I wasn’t sure how well he was going to be received. But it seems like the sly devil is doing pretty well for himself. Everyone loves a rogue.

Helen: I think part of it his struggle to understand what is happening. We sympathise as he attempts to understand human emotions, emotions he shouldn’t be experiencing! Which part of the writing process do you prefer? Editing or writing?

Rachel: I used to think I preferred editing to writing. I’m one of those writers who favour having written the book to the act of writing itself. Writing has never been easy for me, and when I’m in a bad cycle, I struggle day after day, after day and I don’t enjoy it. But on those good days, writing from scratch feels like flying. There’s nothing more freeing than taking that tangle of thoughts and words and emotion inside your head, and shaping it into something entirely new that has a life of its own. Having now taken two books from initial concept to a living, breathing story, I’ve come to realise that when I’m writing, I prefer editing. When I’m editing, I’m dreaming of writing. So now I see the pattern, I’m trying to teach myself to enjoy the process as a whole. Both writing and editing have their place. They’re both part of the journey, so I may as well try to enjoy the whole ride!

Helen: It’s been lovely chatting iht you, good luck wiht the launch of Soul Strung. Just to close us out, tell us something random about yourself.

Rachel: I played clarinet in my school orchestra in my teen years. We travelled the world, played in Prague and Barcelona, and Lake Garda. From carparks to grand halls, we did it all. Music was one of my chosen escapes back then, and it was so easy to lose myself in these big booming pieces that blew me away. Being part of a bigger whole kept me whole. Well, that and stories. I was quite young when I first joined, so some of my memories of these beautiful places are stronger than others. But I’d like to back one day with my partner and see them again with fresh eyes.

You can find my book review of Rachel’s first book Shadow Stained here.

About the Author:

Rachel Hobbs lives in South West Wales, where she hibernates with with her bearded dragon and her husband. By day she is a dental nurse at a small local practice. By night, she writes.

​Her debut novel SHADOW-STAINED is the first in a dark fantasy series for adults, inspired by her dark and peculiar experiences with narcolepsy and parasomnia. She’s since subjugated her demons, and writes under the tenuous guise that they work for her.

​Fuelled by an unhealthy amount of coffee, she writes about hard-boiled monsters with soft centres and things that go bump in the night. ​

You can find more about Rachel via:

Author website

Twitter

Instagram

You can purchase Rachel’s books from Amazon:

Shadow Stained

UK: eBook | Paperback | Hardback

USA: eBook | Paperback | Hardback

Soul Strung Pre-order until Nov 2nd 2021 (Pre-order the paperback and a claim a free piece of character artwork.)

UK: eBook | Paperback

USA: eBook | Paperback

As an Amazon Associate I may earn commission from purchases made using these links.

Author Interview – Forest Wells

Author of the Blood of an Alpha

Blood of an Alpha, by Forest Wells releases today, October 10th, and I am excited to be chatting with the author about his books and all things writing. Welcome Forest. Let’s start with you introducing your new novel.

Forest: My new release is a novella called “Blood of an Alpha”. In this one, Toltan’s pack faces serious trials when they lose their alpha, and the new one is an arrogant fool. As things get worse, Toltan will find himself facing hard choices that could decide the fate of the entire pack. This one is actually a prequel to my first novel, “Luna, The Lone Wolf”, and has two other short stories that dig deeper into events we hear about, but never get much detail on. I had hoped to have it out by June or sooner, but it took a little longer than expected.

I am also working on a sci-fi called “Fog of War” that follows the one human and two holdren (alien foxes basically) crew of a Scorn heavy starfighter. If it helps, think of it as a fighter bomber with better weapons and armor. Anyway, just as 40 years of war with the alien nation of Marcalla looks to be ending, a new threat that may not be new at all looms over the horizon. The crew of Gold 1 will charge back into the flames of war as they always have to defend their homes and loved ones, but they may not come out unscathed this time. That one I didn’t expect to have out before September, and that was if things went perfectly. FYI; things NEVER go perfectly for me.

Helen: That was one of the lessons I learnt when publishing my first book. Things always take a lot longer than you expect, and you should give yourself plenty of time to get everything done. Setting unrealistic deadlines just puts unnecessary pressure on yourself. Congratulations on publishing your book, you did it! Was there a special meaning behind the title you chose?

Forest: Not really. In the first novel, Toltan talks to Luna about “Your blood. My blood. The blood of all wolves. The blood of an alpha.” When I look at the three journeys we follow, that theme felt central to all three. The characters all have “the blood of an alpha”, and their journeys touch that blood in different ways. As for the sci-fi, it just feels right, though it took me a while to find it. There’s a fair amount of doubt, or “fog” if you will,  hanging around the characters. The title tells people that combat is a part of the story, but there’s more to it than just war and space battles, which is why despite what it looks like, it’s actually not a military sci-fi.

Helen: Who is your favourite character from your novels so far?

Forest: That would be the holdren Sundale from the sci-fi, but I still don’t know why. I only know that I love spending time with him any time I can. Especially when I get to dig deep into his mentality and emotions. I don’t know what else to say about that really.

Helen: You have two books out now, which genre do you prefer to write?

Forest: I tend toward sci-fi and fantasy because… I enjoy it? I’m not sure what else to say. I’ve always enjoyed Star Trek, Babylon 5, Starcraft, Narnia, Dragon Age, Dragon Heart, and so it’s fun for me to create my own worlds. I will say that I have an eaiser time creating worlds rather than playing in the real one, so that too is a factor. I get to set my own rules, and then play within them to tell the story I want to tell.

Helen: Creating new worlds is what I love about writing fantasy. Have you always wanted to write?

Forest: I was always writing, even as a kid in elementary school, but I didn’t realize what it was. Then 9/11 happened, the muse woke up, and I’ve been writing ever since. The stories won’t leave me alone, so I write them as best I can.

Helen: Strong emotional reactions tend to be a catalyst for many writers. Having awoken the need to write, how did you come up with the ideas for your books?

Forest: In the case of “Blood of an Alpha”, the two side stories are, well, side stories that couldn’t be told in the original novel because they weren’t part of Luna’s journey. One of them was in an original draft of “Luna” actually, but I realized that because it left Luna’s perspective, it damaged the story too much so it had to go. Similarly, the original draft showed us how Luna’s pack came to be where they are before he was born, but it was too slow and took too much time to develop before he ever got to meet Luna, much less begin his journey. But I didn’t want to just shelve those pages never to use them again. So I expanded those set-up page into its own story that is now “Blood of an Alpha.” But the last half or third of it is actually the original start of “Luna, The Lone Wolf”.

In general though, my ideas mostly come from random thoughts or feelings. My sci-fi was born because I was tired of the “heroes” we were getting. They were always misfits, downtrodded, broken (one way or another), worn-down, unrespected, unlikable, arrogant, or straight up criminals. I wanted a hero like that line from the original “Duck Tales” TV show; “Real heroes just do their job.” I couldn’t find one, so I set out to make one. Not sure if he stayed true to that as he evolved, but that’s how it started.

But it tends to be purely random. A writing contest makes me think of a different angle on werewolves, my desire to see wolves protected gave birth to a story about a wolf who learned how to face and evade hunters (it evolved into what became “Luna, The Lone Wolf”, but that’s how it started), looking at dusty Zoid models made me think of some long forgotten weapon depot that someone finds, things like that. My personal is how a line from Shrek gave me an idea. “You’re a GIRL dragon. I mean… of COURSE you’re a girl dragon.” Suddenly, the old fairy tales of a princess locked in castle guarded by a dragon made sense. From that came a story about a dragon with her own journey to take. And that’s all you’re getting on that one for now. Sorry. 😉

Photo by Andrew Ly on Unsplash

Helen: I love that you are interested in wolves for themselves and that interest drove you to write the book, and of course, any book with dragons has to be good! How does writing fit into your daily life?

Forest: I write when I can, think when I can, and be perfectly fine with not doing a thing for a protracted period of time. Experience has taught me that I do worse when I force things, not better. So I’ve learned to use distractions to center myself so I can write at will more often, but I’ve also learned to let things be. Thus far, sooner or later, the words come back to me.

Helen: Are you a writer who prefers back ground noise or silence? Do you have a playlist you use when writing?

Forest: Heh heh, that’s a VERY long list. But sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Music can help me get into a scene better sometimes, and other times I need the silence to really process the, “okay, how does this NEED to go?” thoughts that make it all work. As for the music itself, it’s a long mish-mash of tunes, soundtracks from games/movies/TV shows, and other instramentals that fit the feeling I need to conjure at any given moment. Whether it’s League of Legends, Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, Ace Combat, Rambo, Star Trek, Babylon 5, Fox Amoore, or Two Steps From Hell, if it fits a mood I need, it will be played at some point.

Helen: How much research do you need to do for your books?

Forest: As much as I need. That sound like a cop-out, but it really isn’t. Mostly because I’m not sure how to exactly quantify it. I look up what I need for the needs of the story. My first novel just needed some research into wolves, most of which I knew because wolves have always been a passion of mine. The sci-fi… whew. That thing has sent me digging into technology, science, and tactics like nothing else. But I never dug more than I needed, and I think it’s served me pretty well so far. I have enough to tell the story and build the world enough for the reader to enjoy. Now for “Luna”, my written notes were pretty minimal. For the sci-fi, I have 30 pages of notes JUST about my alien foxes. So it depends on the needs of the story a bit too.

Helen: That’s not a cop out at all, each book is different. The trick is not to get lost in the research, but it sounds like you have that under control. Talking of control, do you find yourself planning your books, or letting them evolve as they will?

Forest: Oh total panster. There is no plan. I have at most a general idea of how a story will end (though that doesn’t always remain in tact) and a few highlights along the way, but zero idea how I’ll get there. So in many ways, it’s more like I’m reading my work that writing it. It can be fun in that way, but also annoying when it’s clear the story knew things but didn’t bother to tell me. The story knew the real back-bone to “Luna, The Lone Wolf”, I could see it in the evolution of the story, but it didn’t let me see it until a few months before publication. Similarly, the uniforms for my sci-fi military always had a sash sewn into them. For years I thought it was purely decorative. Then the story finally admitted that it’s also an emergencty air supply. May not last long, but even five minutes can be enough to get to an air tank or be rescued. It always knew, but it didn’t tell me. Panster.

Helen: What is your favourite book and why do you like it so much?

Forest: It’s not so much one as a series. Jane Lindskold’s Firekeeper series really got me energized about writing canine characters, as well as fantasy in general. But the main thing is that she is an expert at weaving intricate and detailed plot lines that are totally separate, only to have them crash together for the climax. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that, but that doesn’t keep me from enjoying the read.

Helen: If you didn’t write in sci-fi or fantasy, then which genre would you like to try and write in next?

Forest: Oddly enough, I actually have an idea for a murder mystery. I’ve loved shows like NCIS, The Rookie, Columbo, and others, and I wouldn’t mind giving it a try someday. No idea if I ever will, but still. It would be a fun challenge to write.

Helen: That sounds intriguing, I hope you get the chance to write it. We’re nearing the end of our chat now, tell us something anecdotal about yourself..

Forest: I got the chance to do a reading at a VERY small bookstore up in Joshua tree. There weren’t many people there, and I only sold one book, bit it still felt like a worthwhile trip. To this day I don’t know why, but I do know that it was one of the first times I really felt like a published author. Kind of like being on the other side of the signature table. It’s also been a reminder for me to not be too proud about my appearences. Especially as a new author, but even if I ever do “make it big”, I hope I never get so proud as to say no to such a venue. After all, it’s where I came from. I hope I never forget that.

Helen: I bet that was the best feeling ever! Thank you so much for joining me today. Just to close us out, what advice would you give to new writers?

Forest: Well that could take an hour. Lol. You’re going to hear A LOT of “do this, don’t do that” as you develop. At least 50% of it won’t apply to you or your story. But as you get better, you’ll learn which ones to heed and which to ignore. Like the popular GIF says, “The code is what you call guidelines than actual rules.” Until then, be a sponge. Absorb any little tib-bit and fragment you can into your ball of clay that you use to create. Don’t be afraid to stash freelancers and other resources for future reference. I’ve sat on a few for years until it was time to call on them. It was worth the stash. Also; you DO NOT have to write every day, but I recommend you try it first. Even if you turn out to be one of the many who can’t write like that (despite what you’ll hear, there are plenty of highly successful writers who don’t), the attempt will help you develop your own tricks and ways to help your write more often than you normally would. Writer’s block IS a thing for some, but it can also be an excuse for others, so be wary of which it is for you. There is no such thing as an “aspiring author”. You write. You’re an author/writer. Own it. The terms are inerchangable and do not need a quantified beyond, at most, “published or unpublished”. And finally; I don’t care how Steven King or any author you name writes. You will NEVER be them, and they will NEVER be you. Write like YOU, and you’ll be fine.

About the Author:

Forest Wells is an author with dysgraphia, but those things don’t go together, which is why he did it anyway. He specializes in stories that focus on the emotions and personal journeys characters face regardless of the genre he’s writing. All of which is fueled by his deep passions for all things wild canine, sci-fi and fantasy, and really any well told story. When he’s not writing, or helping with his parent’s Girl Scout troops, you’ll find him watching his favorite NFL and NHL teams, watching E-sports, or gaming himself. Assuming he’s not caught up in the biggest of all procrastinating tools: Twitter. His first novel Luna, The lone Wolf was released in April of 2019, but he had a few short stories and poems published in anthologies before that. He currently lives in his home town of Thermal, California.

You can find more about Forest via:

Author website

Twitter

You can purchase Forest’s books from Amazon and other vendors:

Blood of an Alpha

UK: paperback

USA: Paperback

As an Amazon Associate I may earn commission from purchases made using these links.